Some teams in I-League have undergone a lot of squad changes to bolster their chances to stay in the league, win the league and compete, thanks to late change in plans by the ISL admins. This has really made things interesting as the fans look forward to another exciting round of matches. With things settling down in the league and now teams ready to churn results and surprise, let’s take a look at the top five things to watch out in this round.
Stern Mohammedan Sporting defence take on Dempo’s young attack
The Kolkata side has been in and around the top half of the table after getting the better of their initial struggle in the I-League. The Abdul Aziz mentored side has managed to garner two consecutive draws and has only let in one goal in their last three matches. The onus of defense lies in the hands of veteran Brazilian Luciano Sabrosa, assisted by Sandeep Sangha at the back. With the addition of former India International and AIFF player of the year- Syed Nabi at the left flank has certainly added teeth. Rakesh Masih, who was formerly deployed at the holding mid role at Mohun Bagan, has been shrewdly used at right back. Two other former India internationals, Mehraj and Nirmal Chettri too have joined the squad and will be playing out of the back-line. Ergo, the defense really looks robust at the back. The problem now Mr. Aziz solves is that of how to convert these draws into triumphs, something which he and his team would love to do often and climb up the ladder.
Round twelve would witness another large crowd supporting the Black Panthers host former champions Dempo in Kolkata as Arthur Papas’ men get ready to face a different challenge. Dempo shared the spoils, after a very disappointing loss to United SC at home, against high flying Pune FC. The Australian coach is once again expected to field a young side, with Beto in the middle of the park. Holicharan Nazary and Joy could once again lead the attack with Pronoy Halder attacking from the mid. The young legs did showcase a glimpse of a new tactical line up which could be in store for this match against an experienced, but ageing team. Dempo are currently slotted in the bottom half of the table and a win could not have come at a better time for the Panjim based club.
High Flying Bengaluru FC back to home
After registering their first away win of the season, that too against Salgaocar in a top of the table clash in the last round Bengaluru FC are back at home looking to win another match. Westwood’s side sit pretty at the second position of the table, with only goal difference separating them and the summit. The garden city team hasn’t lost a single fixture on their home turf and would be looking to continue the trend as Shillong Lajong pays a visit to the wonderful stadium. A victory after four matches has certainly silenced the critics claiming the teams’ acumen in away matches and Westwood would be hoping that his side seizes the momentum and clinches another three points form a very tricky fixture.
Shillong Lajong has been anything but a pushover side this season and Singto’s side hasn’t lost in their last five league encounters. After a streak of four home games, this match will be their third away game of the season. The side has won the other two. So complacency would be the last thing which Westwood and his folks would be entertaining on Saturday as the Meghalaya side sits in the top half of the table, demanding respect. Brazilian forward Uilliams has taken the league by storm and has been instrumental alongside Glenn to make merry for the Reds so far. A win in Bangalore would definitely throw cat among the pigeons.
Santosh Kashyap starting to weave his magic, again?
Rangdajied United, a major powerhouse in along with Shillong Lajong in Meghalaya, has been struggling to hoard their maiden three points in the I-League this season. Coach Santosh Kashyap is not new to these situations as he has a reputation of getting better of such adverse conditions. The Meghalaya side made some astute signings recently, which has led their side to believe that they can avoid the drop as well as end the season on a high. Former India international Gouramangi Singh in defence, Sandesh Jhingan and DPR Korea international Kim Young in the attack have signed the dotted in the last few weeks. As a result -no matches lost in the last three encounters. Santosh Kashyap now takes on his former side, Mohun Bagan, as his side look to emerge from the bottom of the table. He has done it before, and there is no reason not to believe that he can make it with this side as well.
Mohun Bagan, on the other hand are under immense pressure. The pain of a loss in derby, is compounded by an insipid draw against arch rivals Mohammedan Sporting. The Mariners now find themselves hiding at the ninth place in the league after just managing to win two of their ten matches. The return of captain Odafa has not helped much with his fitness still being a concern. This home game will be of utmost importance to Karim Bencharifa and his men as they look to bounce back and mark a beginning of sorts in the league.
The Goan Derby
We have a lot of Goan derbies throughout the season, but this one could really shape the table if it goes either way. Table toppers Salgaocar FC take on Sporting Club in the top of the table clash of this round. Derrick Pereira’s side suffered their second loss of the season at the hands of travelling Bengaluru FC in the last match, but the Goan Greens still managed to top the table owing to goal difference. Derrick side now have their task cut out as the Sporting side has been nothing less than an impressive unit to say at least. Gilberto Olivera has been a stand out performer alongside customary Duffy in attack and Chika Wali in defense.
The Flaming Oranje on the other hand also suffered a loss, their third one as the Oscar Bruzon’s side plan to hit back and that too in style on Saturday. The Sporting side has been win less in their last three matches and have been hovering around the podium positions up until now. As this round beckons, Oscar Bruzon would be hoping that his strikers start taking their opportunities and try to deliver more, something on the lines of performance against Pune FC few rounds back. Just like their arch rivals, a win here would boost the teams morale and get them ready for tougher games in the upcoming rounds. Victorino, alongside Australian Boima Karpeh will be the men to watch out from the Oranje brigade.
Pune FC eager to get back to winning ways as AFC Champions league beckons
The Red Lizards were duly awarded for all the efforts the club has made since their inception in 2007. As the club qualified for AFC Champions league play-offs , the focus right now would be end the unwanted streak of draws in the league. The Pune side sit at a comfortable third position in the league table, equal on points with the table toppers. Pune FC now welcomes United SC at the Balewadi Sports complex in round twelve to compete in a tricky fixture. Dutch recruit Mustapha has been in fine form for the home, scoring in the last two games, and he would be looking to lend a helping hand to his team in order to garner a win after three games.
The travelling side from Kolkata has been nothing but a surprise this season. Very few pundits had speculated this sides’ upward bound plans this season. United SC, under the guidance of Eelco, has been phenomenal, churning out results out of tricky fixtures. United SC hasn’t lost in their last three fixtures which by the way were against Dempo, Churchill Brothers and East Bengal. The Purple Brigade now sits at the fourth place in the table with this match giving them a chance to overtake their hosts and enter into the podium places for the first time this season. Certainly a very interesting fixture, this match up has all the ingredients of drama which could lead to significant movement in the table.
In other match on Sunday, Mumbai FC lock horns against East Bengal. The side from Maharashtra hasn’t won in their last seven matches in the league, the latest being a home draw against struggling Rangdajied United. After an awesome start to the season, hogging a lot of limelight over their Afghani recruits, the Mumbai side has lost its way. Khalid Jamil’s side welcomes a rejuvenated East Bengal side as Armando Colaco’s lads played out a scored draw in their last match against United SC. The Lal-Hould brigade have games in hand due to their AFC Cup commitments and Armando would be looking to fully utilize these matches to carve a way to the top positions. East Bengal will clearly go in this fixture as favorites, with their team striking form at the right time.
Mohammedan Sporting vs Dempo (30th November)
Mohun Bagan vs Rangdajied United (1st December)
Bengaluru FC vs Shillong Lajong (1st December)
Salgaocar vs Sporting Clube (1st December)
Pune FC vs United SC (1st December)
Mumbai FC vs East Bengal (2nd December)